July 30th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night HG reveled in an annual indulgent pleasure: Watching Tampopo, the 1985 Japanese movie directed by the late Juzo Itami. Tampopo is a self described “ramen western,” a deeply self-conscious and Japanese spoof of the “spaghetti western” genre. But, it is much more than a Blazing Saddles, much more than a big bowl of noodle soup. It is a sly, but hilarious, commentary on food, sex, cinema, Japanese corporate structure, culinary pretension…and more. Like a great dish, the film has many layers of flavor. The hero, Goro (Totumo Yamazaki), pays homage to Shane (he wears a cowboy hat and like that solitary, legendary figure, he rides off alone–in his truck rather than on a horse). The heroine, Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamato), is lovable, lovely, innocent and funny. Brilliant. There’s a film within the film starring a gangster in a white suit, his beautiful girl friend and plenty of food, sex, violence. This satire of western romance and gangster movies concludes with a startling last-moments-before-dying elegy (given by the gangster) concerning a wild boar and sweet potato sausage. HG’s favorite section of Tampopo (which HG shares with SJ), is where The Ramen Professor (Ryutoro Otomo) instructs a neophyte in the proper, classic way of eating ramen. Deadpan hilarity (which also make you very hungry for a steaming bowl of ramen). Since the basis of the film is food and nourishment it ends with a beautiful image of loving nourishment: A mother suckling her child.


Japanese Food (And) Film Mastery

October 13th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night HG watched the Japanese firm, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. This is an appetite honing and thought provoking documentary about sushi chef Jiro Ono. Jiro, a spry and spruce 85-year-old gentleman owns and runs a sushi restaurant in Tokyo that has legendary status and three stars from Michelin. There are 10 seats and despite the fact that a sushi meal there costs each diner, at minimum, $300, reservations must be made months in advance. Essentially, this is a film about one man’s lifelong, obsessive search for perfection. And, it seems he has achieved it. He has also left a tough legacy to his sons (also sushi chefs) who strive to live up to his reputation while creating their own identities. The film left HG musing. Why are the two best food films (the other is Tampopo, an ode to ramen) Japanese? What is there in the Japanese character that drives a person to devote a lifetime to making the perfect pot, the perfect piece of calligraphy, the perfect flower arrangement — or the perfect portion of sushi? HG has the great good fortune of having a Japanese daughter-in-law, Exquisite Maiko. No, EM is not a slightly mad obsessive like Jiro Ono, but she is a mighty serious lady in the kitchen. HG has marveled at her knife skills when she worked wonders with a fresh filet of mackerel. HG has noted the symphony of sizzle as she prepared lighter-than-air tempura and the deftness of her fingers as she shaped wondrous gyoza and her patience in treating pork bellies to a three fold preparation technique culminating in an earthy, soul warming dish. EM’s performance is a one-woman show. It is wise not to get in her way. HG enjoys a dual pleasure. HG watches EM’s kitchen ballet. And, then he eats HG’s food. And, she doesn’t charge him 300 dollars.

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